Tapestries for Small Orchestra, eminent trumpeter/composer Bill Dixon's new multi-disc set, includes two audio CDs of specially commissioned original music plus a documentary film featuring exclusive interviews and session footage (DVD available only with physical release). Made possible in part by a grant from the LEF Foundation's Contemporary Work Fund and the support of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, this project thoroughly documents the three-day recording session at Firehouse 12's state of the art recording studio, offering unprecedented access into Dixon's creative process.
Bill Dixon :: trumpet and electronics
Taylor Ho Bynum :: cornet, flugelhorn, bass trumpet, and piccolo trumpet
Graham Haynes :: cornet, flugelhorn, and electronics
Stephen Haynes :: trumpet, cornet, and flugelhorn
Rob Mazurek :: cornet and electronics
Glynis Lomon :: violincello
Michel Cote :: contrabass clarinet and bass clarinet
Ken Filiano :: double bass and electronics
Warren Smith :: vibraphone, marimba, drums, tympani, and gongs
Press Reviews for Tapestries for Small Orchestra
Huge is an appropriate word to describe this Bill Dixon set-not that it's physically large (the usual size for a digipak housing two CDs and one DVD), but for its contents, importance, and line-up. Resulting from a residence at Firehouse 12, Tapestries for a Small Orchestra is a striking document updating us on this great trumpet player's vision of composition. He is accompanied by, among others, Taylor Ho Bynum, Rob Mazurek, Stephen & Graham Haynes (with Dixon, that makes five trumpet/cornet players), plus Glynis Lomon and Ken Filiano, among others. Long, spacious pieces, seemingly simple yet unfolding endless ramifications.
-Francois Couture, Monsieur Delire
Mr. Dixon and his small orchestra have given us another masterwork that will takes some time to absorb fully. Each of the five horn players have their own sound and each adds a different presence. It is like entering a dream world which then fades away, only to be transformed into another world...one of the most important discs of the year.
-Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
In short: this is one of the best CDs of the year. Firehouse 12 has done an amazing job with every facet of this release. Some of Dixon's other albums have suffered from bad miking or production, but there's none of that here; every instrument is given the space to breathe and create. The liner notes, written by Bynum and Stephen Haynes, are an illuminatingly good read. but most interesting of all supporting materials is the documentary included on the DVD.
-Trevor Hunter, NewMusicBox
Both his compositions and his own playing tend to be very painterly, with extensive use of space and silence, tonal colours, instrumental juxtapositions and aural gestures: smears, burrs, squeaks, rasps and vocalisations. Each piece has a distinct texture, shape and sense of movement. The music defies classification and is sometimes 'difficult', but Dixon's academic sensibilities are clearly energised by a soulful, passionate aesthetic. Tapestries is not for the timid or intellectually complacent listener, but anyone prepared to meet Dixon's music halfway will reap some significant rewards.
-Bill Tilland, BBC
...thoroughly stunning...Dixon presents gorgeous, slow-moving tableaus, highlighting the range of sounds and textures that the trumpets and cornets can produce. Charged yet sedate, unhurried in the extreme yet never ponderous, it's mature music that is all too aware of the passing of time; the passing of time is in part what this music is about.
Tapestries is a powerful achievement. The title is especially appropriate, alluding to the separate instrumental fibers woven together, the almost tactile sense of texture, and an often complicated imagery (in visual terms, either representational or geometric). In these eight pieces there are, again, compositional strategies that trace back as far as the chamber music-like developmental resources in Intents And Purposes and resonate throughout Dixon's recorded works-the lyrical melodic contours, primarily dark and introspective; fluctuating, intersecting ensemble details and rhythmic confluence; the poised flow balancing thematic focus and spontaneous, responsive incidents of energy-now expanded and intensified. The five trumpets in play remind us that all of Dixon's compositional attitudes derive from his personal relationship with the instrument, expressed though a vocabulary painstakingly generated from nuances of tone color, texture, degrees of pitch, and rhythmic intuition.
-Art Lange, Point of Departure
The minimalist ideal of the "single note as a symphony" finds credence in these epic meditations when long tones are sustained across multiple bar lines. Elsewhere, Dixon punctuates dark, introspective atmospheres with rancorous activity, and coils ghostly harmonies into dense thickets of dissonance. Taylor Ho Bynum, Graham Haynes, Stephen Haynes, and Rob Mazurek are all progenies of Dixon's ideology, yet each has developed his own approach to the instrument, providing Dixon's elastic structures with both individualistic detail and a communal cohesiveness. Brought to life by these phenomenal players, Dixon's orchestral approach to improvisation is further detailed in the DVD documentary, which includes interviews with Dixon and the ensemble, as well as footage of three complete performances and an alternate take of the brooding opener, "Motorcycle '66: Reflections & Ruminations"...for Dixon aficionados and those interested in the endless possibilities of sound, there is a surfeit of remarkable music contained in this collection.
-Troy Collins, Point of Departure
This release marks Bill Dixon's 84th year in a life creating and developing one of the most singularly identifiable and personal visions in music. While this double CD set of music bristles wit the glacial counterpoints, sprays of energy and the throbbing subtexts of tension that define his music, it has in some ways a rawness and presence that sound more restrained than in previous work. This aspect has been ably spelled out in the accompanying documentary on his process, in which his focus on the playing aspect of limited written material (sometimes fragments and sketches) is detailed. Approaching the music in this way, as opposed to a more scored approach, shifts the emphasis of creation to the musical character of the individual player, much like Duke Ellington's methodology. This CD/DVD set is not only a great set of music, but an object lesson in process.
-Nilan Perera, Exclaim!
...undoubtedly one of the events of the year. It follows hot on the heels of two other important orchestral works in a 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur (AUM Fidelity, 2008) and Exploding Star Orchestra (Thrill Jockey, 2007), but surpasses both through the insight 109 minutes of music and a half hour documentary film affords into Dixon's universe. Each track is a treasure trove of cohesive detail executed to wonderful effect. While full explication is beyond the scope of this review, this is essential listening for anyone interested in the state of contemporary jazz orchestration.
-John Sharpe, AllAboutJazz.com
He gives each element room to move, and each personal/instrumental combination enough space for their interactions to be clearly perceived. Despite the size of the band on Tapestries (which includes Michel Cote on bass and contrabass clarinetist, cellist Glynis Lomon, bassist Ken Filiano, percussionist Warren Smith, and Rob Mazurek, Stephen Haynes, Graham Haynes, and Taylor Ho Bynum on cornets and trumpets), each contribution stands out so clearly that this music sounds even more transparent than that of Vade Mecum and Papyrus, the multi-volume recordings for two-to-four musicians that Dixon made during the 1990s. Each part, no matter how small, is played with conviction and sensitivity so to fit into the bigger picture.
-Bill Meyer, Dusted
Tapestries for Small Orchestra is the most persuasive, comprehensive case for Bill Dixon's iconic status since November 1981 (Soul Note) and perhaps even his 1966 landmark orchestra album, Intents and Purposes (RCA). This collection is also the best document to date of the impact Dixon has had on subsequent generations of trumpeters. Though Taylor Ho Bynum, Graham Haynes, Stephen Haynes and Rob Mazurek mostly wield cornets during the proceedings, their connection to Dixon is palpable, and their fidelity to the parameters of a given composition and Dixon's timbre-driven lexicon yields an ensemble sound that is anything but brass heavy in a traditional sense...Tapestries for Small Orchestra may well become the definitive Bill Dixon recording for a new wave of listeners.
-Bill Shoemaker, DownBeat
...what really sets off this offering as uniquely exceptional is the half hour video from the recording rehearsals-a wonderul portrait of the man, the artist and the artistic process. Whether or not you enjoy his music, this video should be viewed by anyone who wants to know why some engage in unpopular artistic efforts. Tapestries for Small Orchestra is a wondrous document. Two solid offerings that fit well into the body of work from this artist, and an engaging video from a brilliant mind, leading music and a discussion.
-Bob Rusch, Cadence
Tapestries for Small Orchestra is distinguished tone poetry and painting. The beauty of the 2-CD set lies as much in individual notes as it does assemblages thereof, and in the same way that single word in a sonnet or shade on a tableau can be the central focus of a poet or painter's aesthetic, here the resonance of one sound is the essence. Ambitious, uncompromising in its use of structure, daring in its pursuit of unheard sounds, this is Dixon in the ascendant.
-Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise
Anyone with an interest in the work of trumpeter and composer Bill Dixon-one of the surpassing, albeit relatively unsung, contributors to the music that, for better or worse, is known as jazz-should snap up this generously conceived, challenging but immensely rewarding release...There is, for a start, nearly two hours of typically thoughtful, deeply exploratory and beautifully interpreted music...also an intelligently edited half-hour DVD colour film profile of Dixon, in rehearsal with the musicians appearing here, directed by Robert O'Haire and playable on the European PAL system. Dixon says many cogent things about both his music and art in general, including the central issue of abstraction-he was trained as a painter and has exhibited his work internationally-and there are further, insightful comments on what it means to work with Dixon, from all the musicians appearing with him on this release.
-Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal
Tapestries for Small Orchestra is a powerful achievement, an acknowledgement of what has come before and a slate-wiping/opening-up for things to come. Though it glances back to Dixon's work with Judith Dunn as well as his multi-trumpet unit of the late 1970s/early 80s (with Stephen Haynes and Art Brooks), nothing like Tapestries could have been done in 1965, 1985 or even 1995. The caliber of players is extraordinarily high and their awareness is strong-the trumpet quartet on "Durations of Permanence" rises out of a puckering unison, with Bynum's crumpled explosive miniatures, Stephen Haynes' steely postbop, Mazurek's echoing flutter and Graham Haynes' taut jabs all in play against a backdrop of strings, percussion and electronic wail. It's a merger of multiple, craggy contrasts that gives the music its texture. Like all of Dixon's work, Tapestries is sound to be felt.
-Clifford Allen, Paris Transatlantic
Pieces like "Motorcycle '66: reflections and Ruminations" and "Adagio: Slow Mauve Scribblings" travel across the sound field like clouds: some thin and iridescent, others thick and dark, still others flecked with shards of ice on the verge of falling to earth. They form and dissolve, meet and coalesce in infinite variety, different on the surface but each comprising the same elemental natural forces. Dixon takes full advantage of the sound-making possibilities inherent in the grouping, and his manner of combining tonal shapes parallels his visual art, several examples of which are shown in the packaging of this two-CD/DVD set.
-Chris Kelsey, JazzTimes
All of the musicians (save bassist Ken Filiano) have recorded with Dixon before, and they enter his sound world with ease and alacrity. Both pre-composed elements and improvisation are at play here, but so completely integrated that a sonic unity is achieved. Firehouse 12 deserves credit for their exemplary presentation of this project, especially in the first-class recording: would that all of Dixon's orchestral work could be captured this well! Tapestries now stands as the finest of his released orchestra projects.
-Marc Medwin, Signal to Noise
Notes unfurl like gaseous masses, coalescing more like weather than music. His compositions are indelibly beautiful, brimming with moments of startling lyricism and hypnotic intensity. These tunes create a sense of suspended time, seducing the listener even as they refuse to resolve in expected ways.
-Jeff Jackson, Jazziz
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